At long last, Paul Johnson has begun the always interesting process of deciding which of his upcoming freshmen will play during their first season of football and which will take redshirts and continue developing from the sideline. According to the AJC's Ken Sugiura, Johnson has already indicated that five freshmen -- Parker Braun, Kenny Cooper, Jahaziel Lee, Jalen Camp, and Dedrick Mills -- will all play this season, barring injuries or other unforeseen barriers. That's good news overall, if for no other reason than it seems to indicate that Johnson is a bit more comfortable with the established personnel this season than he was last season when he played an era-record ten freshmen. It also gives us a lot more clarity in regards to an expected depth chart, particularly on the offensive line; that position in particular should feature a two-deep that's relatively freshman-heavy, particularly in the event of an injury or two.
When Paul Johnson made the decision to dismiss assistant offensive line coach and special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski at season's end, it was expected that a subsequent hire would come with a bit more experience working with offensive linemen. That wish was fulfilled with the addition of Ron West, but it appears to have left something of a void for Tech's special teams unit, one which is currently struggling with roughly twenty days remaining before kickoff. I'd be much more concerned about these supposed struggles, except that the team got roughly zero production out of the unit a season ago. It would, in all honesty, be difficult to not improve in many aspects of the special teams game over last season. The returning was just about stagnant, and veteran specialists Ryan Rodwell and Harrison Butker -- two tremendously talented players -- didn't perform with consistency. Contrary to popular belief, performances from guys like them are critical for the success of a team. Hopefully they can find their strides this season.
Former Tech defensive lineman Adam Gotsis, now a member of the Denver Broncos, will look to step up and help his team win following an injury to fellow former Jacket Vance Walker. I really hate to say it, but my opinion is that Gotsis is perhaps the most glaring example of wasted talent of Paul Johnson's entire Tech tenure. The man absolutely dominated the offensive line of the Houston Texans in the Broncos' first preseason game, showing great closing speed and burst that he quite frankly never got the opportunity to exhibit at Tech for a variety of reasons ranging from likely playing the wrong position to having to fight through double teams due to lack of help on either side of him. It's frustrating to think about now, but he could have been a perennial All-American during his time at Tech if someone, just anyone, had helped him out. Oh well. He does have a new hairstyle now, courtesy of his veteran teammates:
I suppose that not even massive Australians are immune to hazing in the NFL.
Have a great Thursday!